Saturday, October 11, 2014

Review: "Team Seven" by Marcus Burke

While my first reaction to any book that mentions pro wrestling, the Wu-Tang Clan and Outkast is to immediately give it a perfect rating, I have to stick to my initial reaction to Marcus Burke’s debut novel Team Seven, and point out that it has a few flaws, albeit minor ones that in no way detract from what was a pleasurable reading experience. On one hand, this is a book that has more than a few unique qualities to it. We have a narrator that is three dimensional, with inner thoughts and unreached desires, but he is also not the hidden genius you find in many of these kinds of urban stories. He isn’t stupid, but his intelligence is only slightly above average, and it is clear his only way out of this monotonous life is through sports. But the book tends to suffer from a few pitfalls, such as it’s urban-speak, which goes beyond being poetic and musical, and instead becomes something of a parody. The narrator is Andre, Dre for short, who lives in a town south of Boston, who grows up surrounded by conflicting elements from both his home and social life. His father is a deadbeat Reggae musician who is sometimes at home and sometimes in the bed of another woman. As Dre grows up and finds that he has skills on the court, he comes under the nefarious tutelage of Reggie, a local drug dealer who is at odds with Smoke, a former friend and fellow dealer. This book has quite a few memorable scenes, such as when Dre’s father, for his birthday, takes him and his other son from a different woman, to the mall. In Dre’s anger toward his half-brother, you see his moral blindness and imperfections, as well as the harm his father has done to both his sons. I found some of the language, as I said, to be overkill, and a shock ending, which should have been a punch to the gut, is out of place in a Dre’s hostile, but harmless world. But that might be what Burke was going for. Either way, this book is filled with flare and energy, and I'm sure it won’t disappoint.

Rating: 4/5

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